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Twelve dancing princesses.
Start of Story
He was as well received as the others had been, and the king ordered
fine royal robes to be given him; and when the evening came he was led
to the outer chamber. Just as he was going to lie down, the eldest of
the princesses brought him a cup of wine; but the soldier threw it all
away secretly, taking care not to drink a drop. Then he laid himself
down on his bed, and in a little while began to snore very loud as if
he was fast asleep. When the twelve princesses heard this they laughed
heartily; and the eldest said, 'This fellow too might have done a wiser
thing than lose his life in this way!' Then they rose up and opened
their drawers and boxes, and took out all their fine clothes, and
dressed themselves at the glass, and skipped about as if they were eager
to begin dancing.
But the youngest said, 'I don't know how it is, while
you are so happy I feel very uneasy; I am sure some mischance will
befall us.' 'You simpleton,' said the eldest, 'you are always afraid;
have you forgotten how many kings' sons have already watched in vain?
And as for this soldier, even if I had not given him his sleeping
draught, he would have slept soundly enough.'
When they were all ready, they went and looked at the soldier; but he
snored on, and did not stir hand or foot: so they thought they were
quite safe; and the eldest went up to her own bed and clapped her hands,
and the bed sank into the floor and a trap-door flew open. The soldier
saw them going down through the trap-door one after another, the eldest
leading the way; and thinking he had no time to lose, he jumped up, put
on the cloak which the old woman had given him, and followed them;
but in the middle of the stairs he trod on the gown of the youngest
princess, and she cried out to her sisters, 'All is not right; someone
took hold of my gown.' 'You silly creature!' said the eldest, 'it is
nothing but a nail in the wall.' Then down they all went, and at the
bottom they found themselves in a most delightful grove of trees; and
the leaves were all of silver, and glittered and sparkled beautifully.
The soldier wished to take away some token of the place; so he broke
off a little branch, and there came a loud noise from the tree. Then the
youngest daughter said again, 'I am sure all is not right--did not you
hear that noise? That never happened before.' But the eldest said, 'It
is only our princes, who are shouting for joy at our approach.'